The Fayette Village Council convened in regular session in a packed council chamber on the evening of April 23. Although several items of significant community concern were addressed, none was more closely followed than the discussion pertaining to Resolution 2014-03, a resolution voicing the Council’s objections to the renewal of the liquor permit for Mel’s Place and Patio.
The legislation, as read into the record by Mayor Ruth Marlatt, accused owners and permit holders Ron and Melody Lichtenwald of a litany of “concerns,” as the resolution stated. Amongst the items listed in the resolution were notations of a greater frequency of run-ins between the police and the owners and patrons of the establishment, as compared to similar businesses in the community. The resolution claimed that at least one Village Councilor, unnamed in the text of the resolution, witnessed intoxicated juveniles within the premises. The third area of concern stated that “…former employees have alleged that they were subjected to sexual harassment by one of the permit holders while employed at the establishment.”
The resolution went further to state that, “…one of the permit holders has repeatedly interfered with law enforcement of local ordinances and state law by the Village Police Department by appearing at traffic stops involving patrons of Mel’s Place, and following police vehicles throughout the village, apparently in an attempt to ascertain their whereabouts to assist patrons in leaving the establishment while avoiding police detection.”
Prior to voting, Council heard from Ron Lichtenwald who offered rebuttals of several of the points brought forth in the resolution. “After hearing that remarkable page that you read of all these things that I’ve been doing wrong, it’s very odd that I’ve owned the business for twenty years, and I thought I had a pretty good relationship with the police force here in town. As far as some of the charges there, I don’t understand, but I guess that if it gets to the point where lawyers will have to understand, if it gets to that point…” Referencing minors, he said that all employees ask for IDs. “The ID issue…all of us ID people who come in to Mel’s Place. We’re not there to just serve beer.” He mentioned his granddaughters who visit the establishment, saying that they were drinking ‘Shirley Temples’, a non-alcoholic concoction he described as, “…pop and Grenadine.”
“A lot of the people that are complaining, I’m sure it’s because I’ve had an issue with them, and I’ve asked them to leave, or I’ve barred them. There’s always several ongoing things that occur,” he continued. Currently, Mr. Lichtenwald said that 57 people are barred from the establishment. He claimed that his character has been besmirched, beginning with a former officer who he claimed was overzealous in writing citations. Noting the date of June 20, 2013, he claimed that in the village alone there were 263 traffic stops, resulting in the issuance of 104 citations in six months. “Our Chief (Fayette Chief of Police Jason Simon) says that’s not excessive, that he was doing his job. I can see his point, but the whole town was buzzing, and that’s why I came (to a Council meeting), and I felt that I was being unjustly targeted. That’s probably where some of the issues there have come up. Yeah, I might have followed them around, but I stayed a safe distance back to see what was going on. That was my God-given right, my taxpayer’s right. I never interfered with an officer.”
Mr. Lichtenwald continued to refute the points laid out in the resolution, saying that the accusations were hearsay. Liquor Control, he said, makes unannounced visits to establishments that sell alcohol, and reports the violations to the authorities. “Super Valu has been busted once…Circle K twice,” he said. “Gary (Ragsdale, owner of the Buckboard) and I must be doing our jobs, because we’ve never been busted for serving an underage. As a matter of fact, they were just in and thanked me for the job that we were doing.”
As he was winding down his defense, Mr. Lichtenwald raised eyebrows by repeating that he did not understand why these allegations were being made, and said, “I’m trying to do everything right. If there was an issue with this, I don’t understand why Jason didn’t come to me, other than there’s a vendetta that he wants my liquor license. I think that’s pretty clear…pretty darn clear. I’m hoping that you people can see through all this.
Put to a vote, Council rejected the resolution. Councilor Mat Johnson abstained, and the other four Councilors unanimously voted the measure down.
In other matters before Council, Mr. David Wright, the Director of Fulton County Regional Planning, suggested that the village accelerate their invoicing for Phase I projects in order to get them off the books. He said that having unsubmitted invoices for Phase I projects would hamper funding for Phase III projects, and suggested that the village look into their invoicing with due haste.
Gary Ragsdale inquired as to the status of the insurance claim that he is filing due to damages resulting from the recent alley work by Gleason that damaged the foundation to his establishment. Council reassured him that the insurance adjustor is being pressed on the issue, and that there is no current need to escalate the matter into the legal arena.
Council approved a measure allowing Village Administrator Steve Blue to sign a suppliers contract with Duke Energy. Noting the imminent and ongoing price increases with First Energy, Duke Energy will be able to provide power for the village at a lower cost in the short term, and possibly in the long run as well. Council also approved a motion to increase village employee portions of health insurance costs to seven percent, maintaining seven percent increases across the board for the future. The measure will take effect beginning June 1.
Council approved a contract with Lexipol for police department risk management, and approved the promotion of Village Police Officer Bob Bartz to the rank of Sergeant.
Finally, Council approved a measure urging voters to support State Issue #1 on the upcoming ballot. This measure, Resolution 2014-02, urges voters to support the continued funding of the State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP). This program is funded through the Ohio Public Works Commission, and funds from SCIP have played a very significant role in the multitudes of projects that have been underway in the village over the past few years. without the availability of those funds, an alternate source would have had to have been found, and more than likely, the burden would have fallen largely upon the citizens of the community in significantly higher taxes and fees.